The Book of Generations
In our final message in this series on the book of Ruth, from emptiness to fullness, we are going to look at this last passage, but we’re also going to be connecting it with our next series on the Gospel of Matthew. The reason for this is the book fo Ruth ends with a genealogy, and the book of Matthew begins with one. Not only that, but the genealogy from Ruth is within the broader genealogy that opens the book of Matthew. The focus of this sermon is to highlight the promises of God. God always keeps his promises, and we’re going to see today that he doesn’t let anything get in his way of keeping his promises to ancient Israel, or to us.
So we’re going to start with looking at the promises through the books of generations that are highlighted in the passage from Ruth. Then we’re going to shift over to Matthew chapter 1 and look at the promises highlighted in the genealogy there, namely promised king, and promised blessing.
We’ll begin with (Ruth 4:18–22 ESV) “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.”
Hebrew literature is amazing to me. The way that they meticulously compose the records of what happened and at the same time make them coordinate. We’ve talked about before how emphasis is given by repetition, how the structure of a passage like can highlight something like the A-B-C-B-A structure. In the same detail, we see things like the epilogue to the story of Naomi and Ruth, where it perfectly parallels the opening. In the opening, we saw this sad empty and incomplete setting with Elimelech and his two sons listed and the awful setting outlined. Now at this point all the loose ends of the story have been tidied up and figured out. The massive problems that caused despair have been solved and we see potential for the continuation of this people. In Last week’s passage, it was mentioned, that the baby born to Ruth and Boaz was named Obed and he fathered Jesse, who fathered David.
One more thing about this perfect parallelism. In the original language these two bookends of this story, both of them are 71 words long. This might not seem significant to you, but it is. It was a calculated methodical purposeful act of the author to be a perfect little bow on this short record of the history of the line of Judah. 71 word introduction, 71 word close. Now I had to ask myself, “Why would he tack on this little piece at the end of the book?”
This little 10 generation record follows a pattern that was started back in Genesis. Wee see this pattern of following 10 generations at a time started in Genesis 2, and they are all started with the same basic preface. “These are the generations of…” Over an over again this happens, and then we see it here in this passage, and of course the last four records here are repeats from he epilogue. Repeated terms are emphatic terms.
Every time you see a genealogy in scripture, I want you to think of one thing. God keeps his promises. I follow Christian poet and author Jackie Hill Perry on instagram, and a couple months ago she put up a post that said every genealogy is a record of God’s promises kept. That concept stuck is so true. God always keeps his promises. One of our kids classes that happens downstairs spends an entire year focusing on that one concept. God always keeps his promises. Did you know that in the Bible there are enough examples of God keeping his promises to fill a curriculum for kids for an entire year? In these genealogies, every one of these lives represents promises that God has made and kept. Think about it this way. Where would you be if your mother didn’t exist? Like if she were never born, where would you be today? No single one of us would exist. This is an amazing thing. God desired you to be here, so he made your mom. We don’t have time to do a full blown sovereignty of God kind of sermon, but this reality is at the heart of that kind of thinking. God wanted you so He made your Mom. God wanted David, so he made sure Jesse Married David’s mom. God wanted Jesse to be here too so he made sure that Obed had a wife that would make that happen. God knew that the world needed an Obed, so He brought Ruth along at just the right time to meet Boaz.
Something else to see from this passage is that numbers play a big role in Hebrew thinking and culture. Numbers have special importance in Hebrew culture, like 7 and 10 and of course 12 and 40. In this little 10 generation genealogy, something happens. We know little about Perez, except the adultery of Judah with Tamar that brought him into the world, but we know even less about the next six people in the line. They have little more than a mention in the rest of the Bible, but something changes. Number 7 of this list, remember 7 is an important number, Boaz comes along and we know a great deal about him from our study of the book of Ruth. Of course we also notice right away who the 10th person of this genealogy is, David, who we know as king. There is a turning point with Boaz though. A turning point where a history of people with little more than a name are listed one after another shifts to a line of people we know a great deal about, and all of this part of God’s purposes to show himself glorious, a lineage of ten generations of God’s faithfulness to accomplish his purposes and keep his promises, day by day, year by year, and generation by generation. Men and women of God acting in obedience to him, God using every person along the way. That’s the basis of the first point that I want us to see, genealogies are super-condensed stories of God’s faithfulness. Think of them as a can of orange juice from the grocery store. There’s no way this little can has 12 servings in it, but when you put that in your pitcher and add three cans of water, suddenly you’ve got enough OJ to last a while. We don’t get to see all of the work that God has done in each generation, but we know that each of these persons were loved and cared for by God and used in order to fulfill all God’s purposes for his glory, because God always keeps his promises.
So this is the basis of what we’re going to be looking at today and at this point I’m going to have us turn over to Matthew Chapter 1.
(Matthew 1:1–17 ESV) “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”
I’m saving a full blown introduction to the Gospel of Matthew for when we actually start the Matthew series next month, but I didn’t want to preach this genealogy sermon in Ruth, and then follow it up with another genealogy sermon from Matthew in June, so I’m combining the two since in many ways they are highlighting the same reality. Even to the point that the Ruth genealogy is nested inside the Matthew genealogy. Again, I didn’t plan this, but the Lord worked it out this way.
The first six verses of Matthew chapter 1 goes through everything we just read in chapter 4 of Ruth, plus adds four more generations. This time it’s includes the forefathers of the Jewish faith as well as Judah, the tribe namesake. The importance of this we’ve discussed before, but just to touch on it, Judah is the son of Jacob of whom it was prophesied in Genesis 48. Picture it, Jacob is preparing to die and he wants to bless each of his kids before he passes, and the Lord uses this blessing to prophesy about them. Here’s that prophesy.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Gen. 49:8–12 ESV)
This is a messianic and royal prophesy, which is exactly what the author of Ruth and Matthew are trying to get across. There is a direct descendant line connection between this prophesy of a king between Judah and David as we have discussed before. God keeping his promises, but something else I want us to note from this genealogy. Five women are mentioned in this genealogy. Three of them in the first section. Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Then, one in the next section, Bathsheba, followed by the fifth in the last section, Mary. Let’s look at what’s being said here about this royal line. This Royal line, includes the incest of Judah and Tamar, the prostitute Rehab, a foreigner the Moabite Ruth, Bathsheba, who David committed adultery with, and then had her husband murdered to hide his guilt, and finally Mary. Not what would jump out to you as an outstanding royal pedigree. This is no exemplary pure blood gene pool. It’s an absolute mess. And that mess is exactly what God wants us to see. We are supposed to see the mess, we’re supposed to see the raw reality of life in a sinful world. He’s showing us that he is working out his plan in the worst kind of circumstances. It gets highlighted again in the next section that ends with the Babylonian captivity, a horrible travesty of consequences for Israel’s corporate sin.
In the second section of the genealogy we see this list of David’s offspring, king after king after king, some of them good, most of them quite evil. When their history was recorded, for some, all that was written about them was that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Others have good things recorded of them, but none of them are shown to be perfectly righteous, none of them are shown to be the righteous king. None of their sin is hidden from our eyes as we study these hundreds of years of history in the Old Testament. Not one of them lives up to the hope filled promise in Genesis of being the seed of the woman who would crush the head of satan the serpent. It reminds me of Psalm 14, David writes about the hearts of men:
“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?” (Psa. 14:2–4 ESV)
We’re going to pause on the royal line for a moment and look at the blessing side of things, our third point, then when I’m done with this we’re going to look at it all together.
This last point of Promised Blessing, points us back to the Abrahamic covenant again. (Genesis 12:1–3 ESV) “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
All the nations of the earth shall be blessed. When we remember back to that genealogy from the end of Ruth, none of these people were a blessing to all the people of the earth. Joseph looked like a type of blessing, and the blessing he was to those around him was significant. Boaz, likewise, looked like a blessing. When his great-grandson comes on the scene he looks like a great combination of royal line and blessing to t he nations. He had good relationships with the neighboring countries. They respected him and looked out for him. But ultimately every one of these failed. The Matthew genealogy does a couple things that I want to highlight. It starts with the introduction of Jesus as the son of David and the son of Abraham. He is the son of David, a rightful king. He is also the son of Abraham, the promised one that would be a blessing to all the nations. How in the world is this blessing supposed to come when the line of people is so filled with sin and rebellion? The forefathers of Israel kept looking at one another saying when will messiah come? Surely someone born of women will be the one who will bring peace, who will be the blessing to all the nations, who will wear the crown of the king and bring peace. After all, God said he was coming and God always keeps his promises.
Look back at verse 1 of Matthew Chapter 1. Jesus, the Christ or the Messiah, son of David, son of Abraham, this is the record of his family lines, his genealogy explained. Son of David says, he is elegible to the Kingship of Israel. He is in the line of Judah, he is a descendent of David the great king of Israel, and with that heritage he is a rightful heir to the throne, just as it was prophesied, the scepter will never depart from Judah’s line, the staff will never depart from between his feet. He is the forever king that Israel has been waiting for.
“Son of Abraham” says that Jesus is the seed of Abraham that would bring blessing to all the families the nations of the earth. In this one God-man, everything in history culminates. Jesus is the means by which God keeps his promises to Israel. He is the hope of the nation, and of all earth. Our joy and hope is found in Christ. He gets the glory and we get the joy.
Now connecting these points together, as we see Jesus is the son of David, and the son of Abraham, the rightful king and the blessing to all nations, we come back to this messy genealogy. Why would God use this kind of heritage to bring about the greatest blessing the earth would ever know? Why in this way would God choose to come into earth. The God of the universe became a zygote, he grew into a baby, the second person of the trinity enters the world through a virgin’s womb, with sinful parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents. The heritage of Jesus the God-man, the messiah, includes evil kings, liars, adulterers, sexual deviants, prostitutes, murderers, incest, racists, alcohol abusers, and worse. What kind of heritage is this that God would chose to keep his promises through?
God always keeps his promises. This heritage, as messy and ugly as it is, is good news for people like you and me. God is showing his power. His authority over all creation, and nothing will stop him. Abraham sold out his wife through the blessing was supposed to come, twice. That didn’t stop God from keeping his promises. Judah withholding his son from Tamar didn’t stop God from keeping his promises. His incest with Tamar didn’t stop it. He wasn’t hindered by the fact that she was a Canaanite. God’s promise keeping ability wasn’t harmed by Rahab’s profession. Her prostitution was not a hurdle for him. The fact that Ruth was a Moabite, a sworn enemy of Israel didn’t stop God from keeping his promises. Her great-grandson David wasn’t a firstborn, but God still used him. He stole his neighbor’s wife, had an extramarital affair with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, tried to cover it up, and when that failed, he arranged for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to be killed. And this is the guys described as a man after God’s heart and remembered as one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history. This isn’t the kind of situation we would imagine for the coming of the promise, God’s promise kept in Jesus Christ. After him years and years of roller-coaster kings some obeying, others not, then the whole country is split because of strife and warring within their own families. But none of that stopped God from keeping his promises. Even when they were exiled, and it seemed like the whole tribe of Judah would be wiped out entirely, the whole populace was in exile away from their homeland, in the captivity of Babylon. Even through all of this, God still kept his promises. Through the years of prophetic silence, when no word came to the people, God sustained his people, protected his name, and always kept his promises.
How could God use such a messy bunch, with such a contemptible history, be perfectly just and still keep his promises?
Answer: Our sin is great, but we serve a great savior. That is what John Newton said on his death bed. He confessed what we know to be true about ourselves. We have great sin, and we’re not unlike anyone else in the world. If you have a hard time saying that then you haven’t yet fully realized the truth of the gospel. We need saving precisely because we are great sinners. We need the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners, every day. It is that truth that saves us and it is that truth that keeps us. It is because that is the promise that God has been keeping since the fall that he works in our lives and our situations, just like he did through this messed up genealogy.
Now the big application point for us all today. No matter where you are in your faith walk, no matter if you’ve been walking with Christ for decades or days, or if in the last few minutes you’ve surrendered your life to Christ because you sensed him calling you to himself. This is the single truth we al need to remember. In the same way that this heritage of people and the messiness of their lives were no hurdle for God to keep his promises to Israel and the whole world through Jesus Christ, there is nothing about your past that is too big a hurdle for him to keep his promises to you.
If you feel stuck, or caught in incest, prostitution, find yourself an enemy or an alien, have a past that includes adultery, if you feel the warring in your heart of bigoted racism, if your addictions have you stuck under drug or alcohol abuse, if you keep trying to cover up your ugliness with lies or half truths, can’t seem to get away from pornography, feel the guilt of a past abortion, struggle with selfishness or pride, then I have good news for you today. God wants to keep all his promises to you. He desires to be with you, your sin isn’t big enough to keep God out. Look at this lineage, none of us can look at these people and say with any truth that we’re so much worse than they are. You can have hope in Him today. He is calling to you to surrender to him, let him overcome your weaknesses, your past, your sin, and bring you hope like you’ve never known before.
These peoples backgrounds and struggles were no hurdle for God. Your sin isn’t bigger than what he’s able to handle. He wants to take this from you. Don’t be a slave to sin any longer. He brings freedom from sin, and he always keeps his promises. He kept his promise to come as king. He kept his promise and came as the blessing for every nation, and he wants to be a blessing for you too. There are no exceptions to his promise keeping ability here today. There are no exceptions anywhere. He is the King, and he will reign forever. He is our blessing, and he always keeps his promises. He has promised to keep all those who come to him. He’ll never let you go. He’s never failed, and he won’t start now. If you are sensing him calling you to himself, go to him. Answer his call. (Philippians 1:6 ESV) “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion”